review: A well-crafted home

a well-crafted home

A well-crafted home: inspiration and 60 projects for personalizing your space by Janet Crowther

This book is part of the current trend of making decor that will appear to be used or vintage. For many of them, you might be able to find materials at an estate sale or flea market, but you could also use new materials from Home Despot or your local hardware store. Each project is designated with a skill level and includes a finished size, so it’s easy to see at a glance if a particular project will work for both your ability and the space you have in mind. This aesthetic of this book, with matte color photos filled with tone-on-tone shades of cream, and its projects will appeal to fans of the decor on Fixer Upper. I feel like a few of these might actually be things that they’ve done on that show! The textiles used in the sample projects make you wish you could put your hands on them – you can almost feel the linen used to make a pillowcase and duvet. The book closes with instructions for a few of the techniques used, including several types of dyeing, a few ways of sewing seams, basic woodworking techniques, leather cutting, and distressing a mirror for an antique look. Like most books of this type, you may end up spending more on materials than you would buying a pre-made shabby chic item at a big box store, but the goal Crowther espouses is to enjoy the process as much as the product.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Simple Matters

Simple Matters

Simple Matters: Living with less and ending up with more by Erin Boyle

Decluttering and simplifying are the name of the game these days – everyone wants to live without extra stuff in the way, taking up space and creating a mess. There’s definitely a sort of puritanical value to living minimally, and I’m not sure that it really follows (if you get rid of every spare thing, you end up rebuying stuff [IF you can afford to], and it seems like this cycle probably creates more waste than it saves – I also think that equating sparse living with goodness is along the same lines as thinking that if you only eat “clean” foods, your body will be superior – it’s all pretty classist). Despite all this, though, I do think that living with visual clutter isn’t great for one’s mental health, and we can all probably stand to be at least a little more organized. Boyle begins her introduction with a disclaimer that she hopes to avoid that privileged narrative and provides stories that she feels illustrate her modest start. Her perspective here comes from a desire to help others figure out how to be an adult – how to make choices that will make life easier and happier. Throughout the book, Boyle offers personal anecdotes that relate to each topic. The aesthetic here is natural, with lots of neutral colors and natural materials. DIY recipes for cleansers and tips for how to keep a tidy home with a minimum of equipment are also included.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local Chippewa River District Library system

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review: Love the House You’re In

Love the House You're In

Love the House You’re In: 40 ways to improve your home and change your life by Paige Rien

It seems like there’s a cottage industry based around people who don’t like the house they bought (I tried watching Love it or List it but the hosts annoyed me so much I couldn’t stand it). This book offers a guide to assessing your home and explores ideas for making improvements. The content covers home improvement considerations including resale value, municipal codes and requirements, planning for your family’s future, and so on. It looks at that type of big picture but also gets to the nitty-gritty of choosing durable fabrics and paint colors. This book refers often to finding inspiration in magazines and online, but does not provide that kind of visual help itself, keeping strictly to the informational content.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Millington Arbela District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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slime fluxxed

What a cool name that is, but for a kind of sad thing! One of our trees – a maple we left even though we probably should have taken it out when we had the box elders removed. We noticed recently that it is weeping sap and from what I’ve seen online, it looks like it’s probably slime flux.

Thinking this tree may have to go - it's splitting at the crotch and weeping sap like woah

The fact that it is happening at the crotch of the tree, which has a pretty wide split between the two sections, makes me nervous that it is going to split further and come crashing down on one side or the other.

Thinking this tree may have to go - it's splitting at the crotch and weeping sap like woah

My art has been commended as strongly vaginal:
Thinking this tree may have to go - it's splitting at the crotch and weeping sap like woah

The sap doesn’t stink, but then it’s still relatively cold out and mega windy right now, so maybe we’re just not smelling it. This tree has been dropping relatively large branches, which given the wind isn’t super surprising, but it still gives me concern for the future health of the tree. We’ll be giving the tree guy a call to have him take a look.

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review: HomeMade Modern

HomeMade Modern

HomeMade Modern: Smart DIY Designs for a Stylish Home by Ben Uyeda

The idea behind this book is that anyone can have beautiful, stylish things in their home without spending a lot of money. Uyeda encourages the reader to make things from other things they already own, in fact, further reducing the amount of purchases required and amping up the sustainability at the same time. A guide is provided for collecting raw materials and making purchases when necessary. Thirty projects are detailed for most rooms in a home: living room, dining room, kitchen, home office, and bedroom, as well as the outdoors. Most projects are in the $50-150 range, assuming you already have the required tools on hand. Some of the projects exceed $200, though, and may make the reader question whether it’s worth it to DIY. All of the items featured showcase the bare wood/metal/concrete aesthetic that seems at home in an urban loft. You can also use a ToolsMaestro pressure washer and spray the outside of your home to clean it up and make it look better.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Kalamazoo Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL system

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review: Forgotten Ways for Modern Days

 photo forgotten ways_zpswywsnbnh.jpeg

Forgotten Ways for Modern Days: Kitchen Cures and Household Lore for a Natural Home and Garden by Rachelle Blondel

This is one of those books that is totally practical but for me personally remains aspirational. I just never seem to find the time to gather the necessary ingredients for these types of projects – I might remember to buy the glycerin and essential oil that I wouldn’t have on hand to make wood wipes, but will I take the time to actually make the wipes before I want to use them? Probably not. This is purely my own lack of effort, though, and I’m sure that many other folks will appreciate the limited ingredient lists required to make most of these items. For cleaning and other chores, I just don’t spend any more time on them than I have to, so preparing in advance is unlikely to actually happen. Recipes are included for cleaning, laundry, kitchen, household, and garden items, as well as those used for health and beauty. The book is lovely to hold and look at and most of the recipes only require half a dozen ingredients, making them pretty reasonable in terms of preparation and cost. The paper it is printed on and the design all lend themselves to a natural feel that jibes with the book’s intent.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Hart Area Public Library using the awesome MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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snow time like the present

We got our first big snow of the winter yesterday. It feels like it’s late in coming, but it’s not really – it’s just that we had a lot of unseasonably warm weather this autumn so it’s only recently gotten cold.

Firefly Cottage looking super cute #FireflyCottage #mtpleasantmi #pureMichigan

A photo posted by Anne H. (@annethelibrarian) on

K and I both spent some time snowblowering and shoveling and were able to keep on top of it pretty well. It was also quite powdery which makes clearing it easier.

Roses in the snow #FireflyCottage #mtpleasantmi #pureMichigan

A photo posted by Anne H. (@annethelibrarian) on

Our somewhat lopsided xmas tree at #FireflyCottage #mtpleasantmi #pureMichigan

A photo posted by Anne H. (@annethelibrarian) on

It was really pretty, too!

Lilac still has leaves from getting confused during the warm autumn

This lilac got fooled into putting out new leaves during the warm autumn, and it is still hanging on to some of them. It is weird to see such bright green leaves in the snow.

This Lilac only grew a few confusion leaves

This one only put out a few leaves. We cut down the very tall branches of both of these plants in the spring, so they can now be shrubs again instead of gangly tall trees with blooms and leaves only at the very top.

Back of the house

I haven’t posted many pictures of the back of the house, but here is one! You can see the strange window layout the original owners chose on the shed dormer – the bigger one is in the stairway and the small one is in the upstairs bath. It makes sense from the inside but looks weird on the outside.

And lastly, a reminder that we forgot to remove the window screens this fall.

Strata #FireflyCottage #mtpleasantmi #pureMichigan

A photo posted by Anne H. (@annethelibrarian) on

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cool, cool summer

It has been a super hot summer this year! We have been running the three room AC units we inherited with the house a lot more often than I’d like. However, now we don’t have to anymore!

furnace comparison

Woo! It’s a new furnace with central air! You can see the comparison here of old on the left, new on the right. It’s a much more dramatic change in person, but you can definitely see that the new unit extends less far out toward the right of these photos. It also has a much better air filter (designed for people with allergies like me) and a working humidifier. It’s also way quieter and of course loads more efficient. Hooray! This is our last huge house project for now and I’m so glad to have it done with. I would much rather work on smaller DIY projects ourselves (and not be paying huge amounts for these big ticket items).

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water-related fix-ups at Firefly Cottage

We’re moving right along completing more projects!

Here’s where we started in the laundry room when we bought the house:
new house

This original concrete washtub was awesome! Except that it leaked and the washing machine drained into it so every time we did a load of laundry we had water on the floor. Also the metal legs were super rusty (thanks, constant water!) and looked like they could crumble at any time.

Basement project end of day one

When we had the basement waterproofed, they had to break up the sink to get it out of the house (I don’t even know how many hundreds of pounds it weighed). I was sad to let it go, but happy to think of not having water on the floor all the time.

So then we had a blank spot for ages:

Basement project - finished, or is it? Many things left incomplete

The washing machine was draining into a temporary pipe during this time (the one coming off to the left of the vertical PVC pipe – the washing machine hose was clamped on to the top of this pipe).

And now: TA-DA!

Washtub installed

It’s a brand new washtub! That doesn’t have a washing machine hose clamped to the side of it!

That hose now has it’s very own dedicated pipe that is secure and not temporary in nature:

Washtub installed

It might be ridiculous to be excited about this, but until you DON’T have a sink in the laundry room (or even on the same floor), you immediately realize how much you wish you had one.

Washtub installed

In other exciting basement-related, water-related news, we have a new water heater!

Water heater

It’s tankless, as you can see, and we are really geeked to have it. It is a huge amount more efficient than our previous tank style, and it takes up a lot less space. It also doesn’t have the janky vent going through the wall into the other room and out the fireplace chimney, which was a big concern for me. We’d like to finish that room eventually and having a big hot-to-the-touch vent is not a thing that should be in such a room (or anywhere, really). Next we’ll be having a new furnace installed with central air. I am super geeked for that! I think that will be our last mega huge project for now and I’m excited to be done with major things. Weekendy DIY projects are way more my speed.

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it’s a chair!

I finally, FINALLY! found a chair to use at my sewing table in CraftyTown.

Garage sale chair

We found this at a garage sale near where we live. It’s a lovely style – those curves are gorgeous – and only needs a little work. The seat is actually fine, but I will recover it with something I like better (and is not stick-to-your-legs plastic). I will also clean it up with some wood soap, though it’s not really too bad. I’ve been using a folding chair for over a year, so I am really excited to have a real chair!

At the same sale, I also picked up this adorbs glasses-case/tiny clutch:
Garage sale clutch/glasses case

It’s in perfect condition!

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